Argentina captain Lionel Messi is set to make his 150th appearance for the national team as he seeks his first major success with Argentina, without counting the 2008 Olympic gold.
The 34-year-old captain was in stunning form in the Copa with four goals and as many assists before the last four against Colombia at the Mané Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia.
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He scored a goal on Saturday and provided two assists in Argentina’s 3-0 victory over Ecuador in the quarterfinals. It was Messi’s first game since the end of his contract with Barcelona.
Messi has played a record 149 games for Argentina. His inspiring performances over the last five years have been compared to his best days with Barcelona, including his vision on the pitch, the quality of his passes and two free kicks. “We have to make it easy, think about Colombia now, they are a tough team with players who are great, experienced, very fast at the beginning, good defenders and fast counter-attackers,” said Messi. “We hope to go step by step … and be in this final we long for.”
Nine Argentine coaches tried – a little more than others – to repeat with Argentina the same model of Barcelona that allowed Messi to shine and become the top scorer of the Catalan club. “This is the best player we are ever talking about,” said Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni. “The best thing that can happen to us football fans is that he plays until … until the age he can do it and we enjoy it. Nothing else. Even the opponents enjoy it when he plays.”
Messi appears to be heading to the final in the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, at the same stage where Argentina – and Messi as captain – lost to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final.